Preparing for the worst on Election Day

As recently as a week ago, it appeared as if George W. Bush was going to win this year's presidential election. How quickly the political landscape can change!

Throughout my time as a columnist, I've been a staunch advocate of conservatism and the Bush administration, and remained optimistic for the fate of the Republican Party. But on the eve of Decision Day 2004, Bush is a man in trouble. I try to not put too much stock in polling, because different polls are taken from different samples of voters and generally reflect such a small number of voters that it is extremely difficult to get a polling result that is truly accurate. But several disturbing trends have emerged for President Bush.

First, his rolling job-approval average has teetered for weeks around the 50 percent mark. Above 50 percent generally signals a Bush victory; below 50 percent would indicate a Kerry victory. At press time, his rolling JA was 49.8 percent.

The second disturbing trend for the president is the latest Fox tracking polls. At the beginning of the week, Bush led by five points. Two subsequent polls have trimmed that lead to three points and a tie. Whether the race has actually closed that fast is a matter of opinion, but at the very least, polling can provide a glimpse into voter trends and which candidate has the momentum. Right now, that momentum rests with Kerry.

Both candidates have done a good job of securing their base, as numbers range from 91 to 93 percent of voters saying they are definitely committed to either Bush or Kerry and cannot have their vote changed. And among those who can be swayed, they are starting to break toward Kerry.

Several other factors will impact this year's election, including early voting and the weather. Both campaigns have targeted early voting, but the lines in some heavily Democratic areas have stretched up to four hours long; this does not bode well for Bush because higher turnout generally benefits Democrats. But a storm front is expected to go through both Pennsylvania and Ohio on Election Day, which could impact turnout and benefit the president.

One other factor that has been raised regards the idea that polling does not include voters who primarily use their cell phones. While Democrats argue that this benefits Kerry, this is one myth I reject, because both Republicans and Democrats use and rely on cell phones. And any undetected Kerry voters will likely be matched by undetected Bush voters who could swing several key states.

If Bush has one trump card in this election, it is gay marriage. Ultimately, while national polls are shifting toward Kerry, many battleground polls are showing movement in Bush's direction. And states like Ohio and Michigan, which have marriage amendments on the ballot, will be the states that actually decide this election. Bush's turnout in these states will be boosted by religious conservatives, who generally are not fully represented in polling.

Several other states hold the keys to the White House, the most surprising of which is Hawaii. Dick Cheney campaigned there Sunday night, and a recent statewide poll of over 60,000 votes showed that 75 percent of respondents support traditional marriage, 68 percent support the Iraq war, and 55 percent are pro-life. In an election expected to be this close, Hawaii's four electoral votes can make the difference, so keep an eye on the Aloha state as a possible Bush upset.

The president can still win this year's election, despite the several factors working against him. After all the ads, campaign rallies and back-and-forth spinning, the election will come down to whichever candidate can better turn out the vote. And that is something no one can know for sure.

In my heart and as a partisan, I pray for a Bush victory. But my mind and honest assessment say to at least prepare for Kerry.

Timothy Meyer is a senior in the School of Communication.

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